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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Let's look at the big picture.

First, in order to keep Extra Innings the cable companies swung a deal that gave MLB Network wide distribution, not just on the Sports Entertainment Pack.

Then, Comcast and the NFL spontaneously settled their differences out of the blue, and Comcast agreed to give the NFL Network wide distribution as well. At the same time, Comcast also finally reached an agreement with ESPNU, and that'll involve wide distribution as well.

Now, in the past week, Comcast has engaged in similar distribution-broadening with the NHL Network, and now NBATV. (Although the NBATV deal was reported on as early as March.)

That doesn't even mention the end of the impasse between Comcast and Big Ten Network last year; outside the Big Ten footprint it was placed on the Sports Entertainment Pack.

So I have to ask: Is Comcast giving up on its Sports Entertainment Pack?

What's next? Will CBS College Sports or the FCS networks get bumped up? What about the Tennis Channel? Will new channels like GOL TV get added to make up for the losses? Is ESPN Classic getting bumped down, as was rumored? Could I even have the opportunity to get the mtn. outside that conference's footprint?
(I'm certainly not complaining about the sudden jolt in options, and the ability to watch all the cool new stuff, especially on NFLN and ESPNU.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The ideal Firefox RSS plugin. Also, why Firefox may be driving me back to IE8.

Everybody loves Firefox. It's the best web browser in the history of history. Especially compared with IE, which sucks so badly the only reason anyone uses it at all is because it comes with Windows and the great unwashed don't know any better. It's the worst web browser in the history of history.

But for as much as IE's recent browser releases may have aped Firefox in the same way its Windows releases since 95 have aped Mac, in aping Firefox IE7 may have leapfrogged it in the area of RSS feeds, at least for novices. Microsoft, incredibly, went from "no RSS support at all" to "better than Firefox, at least without plugins".

(Depending on your point of view, IE8 may have done the same thing in other areas.)

In my review of Sluggy Freelance, I found a blog post from 2006 wondering when RSS' "killer app" would come along, and suggested it may have turned out to be IE7. Now I think I can safely add, "And not just because most people don't use Firefox." FF's RSS reading model is the idea of "live bookmarks". Each RSS feed is essentially treated as a special type of folder amongst your bookmarks; each individual entry is a bookmark within that folder. It's a nice metaphor, but I think it kind of misses the point of RSS, especially when FF has no native way to easily see when there are new items. You have to install plugins for that. (Perhaps FF's model was designed for sites that completely clear out their RSS feeds on a regular basis because they have such a high density of posts.)

IE, on the other hand, gets RSS. Feeds are placed on a separate "feeds" panel, but otherwise can be organized in much the same way as ordinary favorites. Feeds you've saved are regularly checked (as often as 15 minutes if you set it that way, although annoyingly some sites arbitrarily set feed times for less often and IE treats those as the minimum instead), and if there are new items, the feeds turn bold. When you open a feed it opens a sort of web page displaying every item in the feed (if there are new items it displays only the new items) along with their descriptions.

I think that if Firefox had a plugin that showed a simple alert whenever your feeds were updated, perhaps by making them bold or something to set them apart from feeds with no new items, and carried that bolding to the folder level (so if a folder contained feeds with new items it would turn bold as well, again aping IE but something that neither the Boox or LiveClick plugins do), something like that would probably spark a larger wave of people deserting IE for Firefox. Ideally such a plugin would work from within the existing Live Bookmarks system, just to set a limit so people wouldn't have to wade into the wide, wild world of independent RSS readers, as well as to prevent confusion and later frustration when subscribing to a new feed, and to ease feed input. The best plugin I've seen for someone transitioning from IE is probably the Feed Sidebar, which does a pretty good job of capturing the benefits of the Firefox model of feeds in a form familiar to IE users, but I would like the ability to sort feeds into folders that alert in the same way as individual feeds, or at least tweak the order feeds update and have some control over what order feeds are listed. I don't know if that would be possible without leaving the Live Bookmark system, however.

In any case those issues aren't as big of dealbreakers as I originally thought, and I probably would be using the Feed Sidebar long-term for my RSS-checking needs... if I were sticking with Firefox at all. But I'm not. You know how, to hear from many Firefox partisans, "oh, once you try Firefox you'll never go back to IE!"? Well, I'm running screaming back to IE. Even after the issues with IE that led me to leave in the first place.

Here's the thing. When Firefox partisans tell you how much faster it is than IE they're not telling you the whole story. There are two components to speed of a web browser. There's the speed with which it surfs the Internet... and there's the speed it takes to run. And Firefox - I don't know if this is just because of plugins (every RSS reader I tried at least partially makes Firefox freeze temporarily while checking feeds) but sometimes it will slow down for no apparent reason - is a huge resource hog. I think it might be using something like 300 MB memory regularly, depending on how you interpret the Task Manager, something IE only achieved when it was really reaeeaaalllly taxed. My computer was basic in 2006, so Firefox is as slow as molasses. Maybe one day I'll install Firefox on my desktop once I get a real job and a real Internet connection I can hook it up to, but for now I'm re-setting up IE8 as my default web browser the instant I post this post.

Now, of course, I still have some issues with IE8, so: any Chrome or Opera users out there? I'm looking for a web browser that will operate reasonably well in Windows XP on a 1.7Ghz Pentium processor with 504 MB RAM. (I sometimes have 10-20 tabs open in a single window with pages loaded but mostly not being used.) Preferably, I'd like something that browses the web faster than IE, but actually running faster than IE would be a big plus as well. (IE has had no shortage of random freezes of its own, but FF randomly freezes several times a day.) I'd also like an IE8/FF-style favorites bar, but could go without several FF features I like because this is almost unusable. Nice but not required: an FTP system that works better than Windows' built-in one. I think I have one or two other issues with IE8, probably holdovers from IE7, but damned if I can think of them right now.

I may take Chrome out for a spin as soon as next weekend unless I hear that it's not suited to my computer or browsing habits.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Experimenting with doing this from Friendbar's "lucky site" button. As I'll explain in a post later today, I might not keep it up even if it works. And because it's "a site that is popular today" I'll be late to the party instead of "discovering" anything.

Is the story in the headline - Google Analytics' dominance - or in the first paragraph - we like to know how our info is being used?

A thought on the Belmont Stakes.

You may recall that before the Preakness I was wondering if I would be cursing Rachel Alexandra for skipping the Derby and ruining her own shot at a historic Triple Crown.

There's still that element with the added element of skipping the Belmont, but now I think I might be cursing her for running the Preakness and ruining Mine That Bird's shot.

Any Triple Crown is historic at this point after the long wait, but this one might turn out to have been ruined at the Preakness instead of the Belmont like so many others this decade.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now I could be wrong about the first sentence...

Weren't ESPN The Magazine stories placed on Insider before they launched a new website with all the bells and whistles?

And does this mean I have to start paying for ESPN The Magazine stories (with an Insider subscription that requires an ESPN The Mag print subscription anyway)? (I'd rather not lose Bill Simmons' magazine columns!)

Could actually be worth watching... basically one test of the "you can only read our stuff if you pay to receive the dead trees" model for Saving Newspapers (tm).

Monday, June 1, 2009

My mornings have become 100% unproductive even when I'm up for them. I need a starvation diet at some point.

I was all set for an incredibly productive weekend. I was going to make boatloads of headway on my backlog in my communication class. I was going to work all weekend on banging out three different papers.

The amount of headway I actually made? One-third of a reading.

(On the flip side, I will agree with my comm teacher on this: Distracted by Maggie Jackson is interesting enough that I'd like to have the whole book to read for my book on the Internet.)

And while feed-and-Twitter checking can take a couple of hours, it shouldn't dominate the whole day! (Blame the need for naps for some of the rest.)

My plan for tomorrow: Feed/Twitter check, lunch, retake an exam for another class, get a new bus pass, and HEAD HOME. I need to at least partially make up for lost time.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Idea to save the NHL.

I've heard it suggested that the reason the NHL hasn't caught on in the South is because the kids can't play it without any ice or snow. I personally think that's bullshit, since I don't think I've ever touched a football in my life. Maybe the NHL needs to adopt a convoluted and insane championship system! :)

But if that does explain the unpopularity of the NHL in the south, tell me what you think of this idea: Put ice rinks in YMCAs, youth centers, standalone buildings, and the like in southern, warm-weather cities. They can be used for anything - figure skating, hockey, even just skating for fun, like on dates and the like. Maybe start some small youth hockey leagues while you're at it, even if you can field only two teams at first with no subs.

Over time, once the kids have a place to play, maybe it can help make the NHL a reasonably national sport and return it to the Big Four so it doesn't have so many problems like getting jerked around the schedule so it's not Conan's leadin, bumped for Yanni, mired on Versus, and other such stupid, stupid, idiotic things.

(Actually, having the same teams as last year could serve as a good control for whether NBC's first two games should be 1 and 2 instead of 3 and 4 long-term, a change I've liked for at least a year no matter what circumstances brought it about. And I personally think that in the age of the Internet, buzz and word-of-mouth could eventually turn the NHL into a fairly national sport anyway. Seems everyone on the Internet likes the NHL, except for some NBA partisans - each side seems to want to turn any mention of either league on Sports Media Watch into a "my league rulz your league sux" shoutfest.)

Hope DMM didn't break things by trying to do "IWC on a Postcard" for 2317, assuming he was trying to do so, especially right as he went on vacation...

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized charitable act.)

So most of what's happened up to this point in the Steve and Terry theme since the reboot of the universe turns out to have been an extended flashback that just ended (in what may have supposed to have been June).

Which is rather interesting in terms of fueling the "did the universe reboot to the beginning or not?" debate. All signs now seem to point to "no, except for Space". Still, the fact that so many comics went into flashbacks with so many different approaches and explanations still seems to hint that the Irregular Crisis is not yet over, especially as regards the implications in themes such as Space and Cliffhangers.