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120 comments

first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404495)

first post

Do we care about Cringely? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404499)

Especialy about something in Canada?

The guy gets too much exposiure here for what he writes.

Cringely? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404503)

Wish he would go away. Know-nothing jerk :(

The Cringley Effect (-1, Flamebait)

ngkdc (810481) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404504)

Hey ... why don't you make Cringley a fixed link ... he's on every week anyway!

***

The conglomorates will put and end to this... (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404507)

At this point, intellectual property lawyers are supposed to start reaching for their telephones to call Canada, but it won't do any good because all this content is perfectly legal and here's how. With the exception of local channels, which come from an antenna, all of Andrew's video content comes from a C-band (big dish) satellite receiver (receivers, actually), and is fully paid for. "I buy the channels just like a cable system does or a motel that wants to offer HBO, from the National Programming Service," says Andrew. "And as a result I pay wholesale prices. People don't realize how much of a markup there in is the cable business. The Discovery Networks, for example, cost me $0.26 per customer per month. The IP laws in both the U.S. and Canada say that if I have legal access to this content I can store and use it. And the over-the-air channels, of course, are free."

Hmm, I wish that everyone could have a large dish in their neighborhood. Hell I had to put up with a ton of shit at my apartment complex to get a small dish ($400 damage deposit -- $300 non-refundable, make sure it wasn't attached to anything, etc). I have to sign a waiver at my house because of the HOA. I thought the FCC mandated that having a small dish was legal and easy? I just can't see anyone having a large dish to bring this in at least in my area.

If getting this stuff for .26/mo is possible why aren't more people doing it? Is it because it isn't as easy as Cringley makes it seem? This might be possible now but once entire neighborhoods across the nation (and world) start to do this it might not be quite as easy. Remember, the conglomerates control a lot of things including media channels. You think that they are going to put up with losing the revenue from their residential customers?

Losing revenue from residential customers - not. (4, Interesting)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404662)

The residential customers also cost them a lot of money to support, either directly or indirectly, so what is happening here is that de-centralizing the distribution of media and communications will require the cable companies and telcos to streamline their operations. It will put some cable service guys out of a job - until those service guys become your friendly local content provider. Providing an alternate content path as described (and especially having a roving phone automatically finding a way to connect to the PSTN regarless of where it is) is not "easy" but it's a good example of what someone who understands the infrastructure can do using the available technology today.

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404744)

The residential customers also cost them a lot of money to support, either directly or indirectly, so what is happening here is that de-centralizing the distribution of media and communications will require the cable companies and telcos to streamline their operations.

So what you are saying is that they make no money on their residential customers and they only promote the service out of the goodness of their hearts right? They have no interest in spreading their power across the country and buying up every little company out there to take under their wing right?

This is America and we work under the Capitalist system. If something isn't profitable it is either done away with completely or bought up by the government. Comcast wouldn't be buying up every cable company in the country to spread their influences if it wasn't profitable.

Believe me. The conglomorates will not appreciate losing customers to this sort of operation. Luckily for them they can control the content that these neighborhood groups can receive and at what cost.

Either way we'll lose.

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404902)

I didn't say they make no money on residential customers. Just that by the time you factor in the number of cable guys with vans and equipment that a service provider needs to keep the residential customers happy and connected, the net profits realized by the cable company from wholesale customers vs. residential customers is probably close to equal.
The reason why wholesale customers get wholesale rates is that they don't require nearly as much of the service provider's support. If the cable companies found themselves supporting less and less of the residential networks, they would lose out on the service revenue, but they would also be able to cut out the disproportionately larger support infrastructure that the residential networks require. Smaller organizations generally work more efficiently.

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404955)

"This is America and we work under the Capitalist system. If something isn't profitable it is either done away with completely or bought up by the government"

Or subsidized by the government (the airline industry for example) so there can be a greater transfer of wealth from poor to rich.

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406503)

Or subsidized by the government (the airline industry for example)

Or agricultural subsidies. Those are even worse: they kill poor people by stifling global competition, they keep consumer prices high, and the beneficiaries are Cargill, ADM and the other big AgriCorps.

I wouldn't be terribly opposed to 'preservation subsidies' for multi-generational family-owned-and-operated agribiz with a size cap, but the subs we have for corn at least are fucking obscene.

Of course, we will never get rid of those subsidies, until we get rid of the senate.

ObTopic: Is there a company in the US that offers a similar 'wholesale' satellite service for small-medium "cable" operators?

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (1)

Stargod (721192) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405505)

Hmmm, I can see this developing even more accross hundreds, nee thousands of networks across america. Then there will be hundreds of small independantly owned networks, maybe even providing tailored real local content.
Big business will then see this as a great opportunity for profit and gobble them all up and we will be back to square one. What a great future >:}

Losing revenue from residential customers - not (2, Insightful)

crovira (10242) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405876)

"This is America and we work under the Capitalist system. If something isn't profitable it is either done away with completely or bought up by the government. Comcast wouldn't be buying up every cable company in the country to spread their influences if it wasn't profitable."

The Capitalist system is NOT the free market system. It consists of getting the MOST money for your investment.

When there is competition, prices don't necessarily drop either. It doesn't have to be collusion or price fixing either but just an assumption that the price currently charged is what can be borne by the buyers.

The profits may have been small when the infrastructure was being created but become larger and larger as time passes as the infrastructure becomes wide-spread and comoditized.

Almost everything wired will become wireless as the infrastructure becomes wide-spread. Its more convenient NOT to run miles and miles of wires when you can use "nothing" to carry the signal. ("Nothing" is FREE! It costs zero capital expenditure.)

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404947)

you know NOTHING about the Cable Tv biz.

Residential customers. the BASIC subscribers who get the least channels are our Largest Subscriber revinue generator. The only thing higher than that is the Porn revinue.

it does NOT cost a lot of money to support the customers, and with the advent of FORCED digital boxes it will drop down to almost nothing, just like how the Telephone companies have it.

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406674)

What a load of crap.
My cable has been down since Hurricane Frances the cable got ripped off my house by a tree in the lot next to me that also ripped off my power line. Florida Power and Light came out and cut those trees and put my power line back up. When I called Adelphia about the cable being down my wife told the woman "The cable is on the ground. We hav digital cable and cable modem." The moron on the phone asked "is your regular cable working?" Then they told me three times that someone would be comeing out to fix the line. They never showed up. I got tired and put a new connector on the cable and screwed the cable back on the house and got it working again but they never came out to fix it. Then came Jeane and power went down and so did cable. Two days later I had my power and phone back but no cable. My cable bill in the winter is more than my power bill and I know it has to cost a big pile more to build power plants and fuel them than it does to run cable system and show me wheel of Fourtune! My wife called the cable company today to see how much the credit would be for the Month without service... $3.17 !!!!
I have no Movie Channels and still do not have my cable working and pay around $90 a month. That comes to $1080 a year. From this I have learned one major thing.
1. Cable TV compaines or at least Adelphia Cable are not ready to be REAL utility compaines like phone and power companies. For all the heat Florida Power and Light has taken for not getting people there power back they have done a much better job than Adelphia. In my office I know two people without phone five without power and 25 without cable. It would be more but a good number have gone to DirectTV or Dish already. I would never trust Adelphia with my phone or alarm service after this. We are going to a data connection to our homes that carries TV, Phone, Internet, and Monorting services. These are going to need to be treated as seriously as power and phone is now. I had phone service all the way through the storm.

Re:Losing revenue from residential customers - not (2, Funny)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406960)

The residential customers also cost them a lot of money to support,
That cost is nothing compared to the cost of having to make a profit!!!

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (4, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404790)

Being .26 a month is probably why these channels all get bundled together into a "basic" service, and the cable companies have been fighting tooth and nail to prevent customers from getting the choice of a pick-and-choose "cheap" service.

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404989)

no.

and he is misquoting horribly. when you buy discovery you are FORCED to also buy discovery wings, discovery kids, discovery fecies, discovery snot, discovery festering pimple, etc...

the network FORCES you to carry those other channels and have them in viewership for ALL subscribers in that tier that you have any of those channels available.

Cringley has his info 1/2 right and key parts missing.

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (5, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404794)

Blah whine "conglomerates".

He buys the shows from the conglomorates, the only people he's competing with are the service side of the industry.

His solution scales until there's an old dipshit on his cul-de-sac waking him up at 3 AM screaming because something went wrong and today's Oprah got cut off.

The content is really cheap, (another argument against "broadcast flags" and DRM). But the larger your customer base, the more they'll expect from you, and the stupider they'll be.

Comcast charges 40 bucks a month markup because people keep digging through the cables, can't get their cablemodem working, etc.. (Comcast sucks and is a ripoff)

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (3, Insightful)

idesofmarch (730937) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405020)

"His solution scales until there's an old dipshit on his cul-de-sac waking him up at 3 AM screaming because something went wrong and today's Oprah got cut off."

I was wondering about the exact same thing! This is all great but is he set up to handle the annoying customer complaints? This is the main thing that would stop me from trying to do it for my neighbors.

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (1)

joshmccormack (75838) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405393)

Comcast charges 40 bucks a month markup because people keep digging through the cables, can't get their cablemodem working, etc.. (Comcast sucks and is a ripoff)

Big cable and telephone companies also do business very differently from this guy. He doesn't seem to try to get people in the neighborhood as customers - doesn't even seem like he charges them! So no marketing, no accounts receivable, no office so no security or cleaning crew. Big companies always love to have 50 layers of people who do nothing but yell at each other. And no one just sells "TV service" or "cable modem service." It has to be branded, marketed, advertised, etc. Why I honestly don't know....

Sure, this little operation won't necessarily scale all that well, but there's no way on earth cable/Internet/telephone service should cost you as much as it does.

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (1)

kkovach (267551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404917)


If getting this stuff for .26/mo is possible why aren't more people doing it? Is it because it isn't as easy as Cringley makes it seem?

To quote Cringley, "What's happening in Andrew Greig's neighborhood is going to happen in three to five years in many neighborhoods. The look will be slightly different with technologies like WiMax wireless networking playing a role. Moore's Law, too, is going to have a significant impact on bringing down the cost of implementing this dream. That Starnix thin client needed to drive your TV costs $250 in volume today but three years from now it will cost $70."

- Kevin

Re:The conglomorates will put and end to this... (1)

jdcook (96434) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406283)

According to this FCC fact sheet [fcc.gov] , you cannot be prevented from installing a 1 meter or smaller dish antenna for receiving television programming if it is installed on a portion of the apartment (or condo or co-op) that you have exclusive control over. In general, this means you can install it on a balcony if it doesn't hang over the edge. Window ledges and exterior walls are not under "exclusive control" and you do not have a right to install there. Where was your antenna situated?

Simpson quote (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404526)

"Me homer. I'm running from PBS"

Posted by Michael (-1, Offtopic)

toetagger1 (795806) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404546)

Ok, where is the button to rate abusive moderators?

Please. (2, Insightful)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404551)

We've reached the point now where the PVR has so much in storage already that it is set to simply record anything that isn't already on disk.

Bullshit.

Re:Please. (-1, Offtopic)

strictfoo (805322) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404661)

How is this fucking off topic? IT'S A RIDICULOUS quote from the damn article. Look at the quote. The guy quoted says that there are PVRs available that have enough room to "record anything that isn't already on disk". Come on!

Completely on-topic. The statement is complete bullshit.

Re:Please. (1)

danknight (570145) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404888)

I agree, wish I had mod points today

Re:Please. (1)

Tiggan (581390) | more than 9 years ago | (#10407435)

Go back and re-read the article. He said that HIS PVR has enough room. Since he built it, I'm guessing he knows how much storage the machine has.

Re:Please. (5, Interesting)

TheLogster (617383) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404682)

Harddisks are cheap these days...

You can build multi terabyte capacity systems for a few thousand bucks...

Storage of video isn't and issue. 500-800KBps WM9 at SIF res is good enough for tv..

So the system that tapes eveything that isn't on disk is not "bullshit". The company that I work for builds hardware for the broadcast industry that is designed to do such things.

Re:Please. (1)

matman (71405) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406993)

Well, lets see... based on my experience, pretty good (based on downloads from P2P networks) A/V quality for a 1 hour show (45 min vid post commercials) occupies ~250 megs. That means that you could fit ~3500 1h shows on a TB. If you have 50 channels that you want to record with a pretty high repeat rate (lets say, 90% repeats), recordable shows would be running concurrently. So, 5 shows per hour, you could fill a 1 TB disk in 700 hours (about 1 month). So, if he'd need at least 10 TB/year for that video project. Say it costs him $1/GB for that (hardware and maintenance)... that'd be 10,000 dollars a year in storage costs. Given a customer base, the cost could be past to customers as:

(loose calcs)
10 customer houses = $85/month/customer
100 customer houses = $8/month/customer
1000 customer houses = $1/month/customer

So, he doesn't really need THAT many customers to make it workable. Decoding from the sat and decoding to a user's coax would be an interesting problem. Maintaining a cluster of boxes and keeping the data index/available would be somewhat painful too.

Now, how much would he need to store most of the popular shows of history? Going by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_television_pr ograms that's at least 1000 series. If each series has 5 seasons of 25 episodes, and most are half are half hour shows, thats...
93750 hours of TV, or ~135 TB. That's like 550 250GB hard disks. :) Maybe a few years down the road...

Re:Please. (3, Informative)

danknight (570145) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404856)

Yeah, Id be interested to know how many TeraBytes is server has :) I have just under 1/2 TByte raid and already just about filled it with movies and tv and I'm only talking about 15 Movies and a few hundred tv shows

Re:Please. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405092)

you need to do something different. I have EVERY episode of the simpsons, futurama, family guy and good eats on a small set of DVD's (About 7 episodes per DVD) and several movies.

These are DVD's that will play in a DVD player, no they are not at a stupid 8Mbit bitrate, they are at a slightly better than SVHS bitrate which is better than the broadcast TV I recorded them from.

Why is it that Videophiles think they need to record tv at 22Mbit per second in 96Kbps 5 channel sound?? it looks no better than by 300 megabyte 1/2 hour show at a low bitrate (that is still higher than Digital Cable or DSS sattelite) .5Tb?? tiny but enough to hold at least 20 full length movies + 200 1/2 hour TV shows.

Re:Please. (1)

thetbone (111767) | more than 9 years ago | (#10407761)

"These are DVD's that will play in a DVD player, no they are not at a stupid 8Mbit bitrate, they are at a slightly better than SVHS bitrate which is better than the broadcast TV I recorded them from."

How did you do this??

Re:Please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405795)

I don't know what you're doing wrong, but my 1/2TB raid has over 300 movies and 300 music videos and is less than 2/3 full...

The mp3s are on the another drive....

India has Wireless Neighbourhoods too ... (4, Informative)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404553)

India has a prototype wireless phone system in the Kuppam Wireless Telephone [tenet.res.in] System... I don't know if it's open source or not ... (from what I see, politics drives towards expensive solutions). Has all the stuff WiFi for 3.2 lakh people, VoIP phones , the works ... from HP

Re:India has Wireless Neighbourhoods too ... (1)

rondumsfeld (818117) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404907)

Check out this shirt that was inspired by India's WiFi Rickshaws http://protoculture.com/t0010.html/ [protoculture.com]

India's WiFI Rickshaws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404985)

heres a working link... http://protoculture.com/t0010.html [protoculture.com]

Cringley article mirror at Mirrordot.org (4, Informative)

UnderScan (470605) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404648)

http://www.mirrordot.org/stories/2f31d8cc49919cc72 84b7d708fe73c52/index.html [mirrordot.org]

From http://www.mirrordot.org/about/ [mirrordot.org]
Erik and Jay are the geeks behind this site. MirrorDot started with us simply doing a proof-of-concept project to see if we could create a system to automatically mirror any Slashdot-linked pages and ensure the content would remain available, even if the original site got clobbered - trying to solve the Slashdot Effect. The project worked, so we decided to make it available in September 2004 for anyone to browse and use.

Is MirrorDot perfect? No way - far from it. :) Nonetheless, we found it to be useful and hope others will too. MirrorDot is currently considered in a "beta" stage, so if you find any broken stuff on this site, please let us know.

Re:Cringley article mirror at Mirrordot.org (-1, Offtopic)

haluness (219661) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404686)

Nice site, but it certainly feels like a time warp back to the 70's :)

Re:Cringley article mirror at Mirrordot.org (1, Funny)

The_Hun (693418) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404763)

Yeah, those good ol' websites back in the 1970'-s... :)

Re:Cringley article mirror at Mirrordot.org (1)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404754)

So now, instead of the "slashdot effect", we'll have the "tceffe todhsals" when we bring down mirrordot.org too... Here goes nothing!

Re:Cringley article mirror at Mirrordot.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405216)

I also find if quite funny that mirrordot.org is slower than getting the article from the source. It also doesn't render right from mirrordot.org (Firefox 1.0PR).

different server! (1)

mib711 (785099) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405497)

What you said might be true, but then again, that software could be run on a more powerful server.
...maybe on the slashdot-server itself. Of couse that would be a whole lot of additional traffic to handle and I don't know if that would be feasible.

Re:Cringley article mirror at Mirrordot.org (1)

idesofmarch (730937) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405999)

A great idea, but have you considered copyright issues? You are hosting Google ads I see, so this venture may generate revenue and may fall outside some fair use safety harbours.

$$ donation is a silly way to keep this going (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10406719)

I would be far more impressed by a anti-slashdotting system where either:

a) A package is put together that volunteers can run on their servers to create a distributed pool of mirrors.

b) A P2P mechanism is leveraged. Imagine a firefox extension that can grab a torrent off mirrordot and download the page seamlessly, with a preset ratio/time limit before it quits.

yuo FaiVl It (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404678)

from 7he OpenBSD thing for the

I have a neighborhood wireless network... (5, Funny)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404704)

Half the people in my building have an SMC wireless router, they haven't changed the SSID, and they haven't put WEP on it. You can connect to the "SMC" network anywhere in the building.

If they connect to the wrong AP, they don't notice because it still "works".

Truly horrifying.

Re:I have a neighborhood wireless network... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404967)

I thought it was part of my move in package when I bought a house. I figured I needed something to do before the furniture was brought over so I carried my laptop in and low and behold "linksys" and "linksys2" showed up as available networks.

How nice, I have free Internet! I was happy to use their beaconing WLANs until I got my own connection (and because Charter sucks and Frontier wasn't much better I was lucky to have it).

Personally, I thought it was absolutely wonderful. It made my life a lot easier and because one is a Charter customer and ther other is a DSL customer I assume that if my DSL goes down at least I have the possibility of an Internet connection via Cable.

Redundancy is a good thing ;)

Lazy Leeching Neighbors (4, Funny)

t7 (591821) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404712)

"Then his neighbors dropped-by, saw what Andrew had done, and they cancelled their telephone and cable TV services, too, many of them without having a wired broadband connection of their own. They get their service from Andrew, who added an inline amplifier and put a better antenna in his attic. Now most of Andrew's neighborhood is watching digital TV with full PVR capability, making unmetered VoIP telephone calls, and downloading data at prodigious rates thanks to shared bandwidth."

Andrew Greig should force his neighbors to contribute to the network by at least sharing their disk space for serving even more tv shows. Perhaps if the neighbors were up to the challenge (and didn't cancel their cable) they could even grab episodes of their favorite shows to share.

I'm not sure how big Andrew's pipe is, but I'm sure he won't be able to support the entire neighborhood.

I would consider setting up something similar but my neighborhood is infested with senior citizens who's VCR's are probably all blinking "12:00 PM".

I'm 2 invites away from my free iPod. [freeipods.com]

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (4, Informative)

Mordaximus (566304) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404797)

Perhaps if the neighbors were up to the challenge (and didn't cancel their cable) they could even grab episodes of their favorite shows to share.

No they couldn't. What Andrew does is legal, because he buys the channels from The National Programming Service just like a cable provider would. If his neighbours recorded off of consumer sources and shared it, there would be legal problems.

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 9 years ago | (#10408252)

they could probably, however, still share the disk space via that all-encompassing wireless network, effectively working like a very wide-area distributed disk cluster of some species. If they got a contract saying that he'd pay $0.01/month for the privilege of using their boxes as additional storage, it would return to legality, as it would still be him doing the capturing

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404851)

That would force everybody to leave their computers on all the time to make it work. Sorry, but that's not acceptable.

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (1)

not_a_product_id (604278) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404946)

whenever we have a powerloss my VCR does that but since I don't bother to record stuff while I'm out I just leave it til the flashing annoys me enough to make me set it. (usually takes a few weeks) Maybe the senior citizens are just a bit lazier?

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405032)

Did you READ the article? The part about Andrew being a bloody ISP? Why on earth would an ISP force its customers to share disk space?

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (0, Offtopic)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405251)

Pffff!! Read the what?
I think you clicked on the slashdot link when you meant to go somewhere that people read articles.

Re:Lazy Leeching Neighbors (1)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 9 years ago | (#10408690)

12:00 PM eh? That'd be an interesting trick. All the ones I've seen blink 12:00 AM when first plugged in.

What about the bugs? (2, Interesting)

colin_n (50370) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404735)

This setup sounds very compelling. I am interested to know what all the drawbacks are as well as what inconveniences the participants experience. I know that when I switched to Voip with Packet8, the price is great but there are some minor inconveniences such as service outages + sometimes bad connections if my girlfriend is accidentally using all our upload bittorrenting TV episodes. Everything cant be only plusses and no minuses. Can any of the participants share their experience?

Re:What about the bugs? (5, Interesting)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406882)

Firstly, I'm not sure how your home network is setup but one solution might be to use a traffic shaper and give your VOIP packets the highest priority.

Secondly, this setup sounds very compelling until you start to read between the lines and realize that this guy's got a whole cellar full of hardware...

1. The C-Band satellite dish in his back yard and probably 10+ receivers.

2. Two or three MythBackend Systems each with multiple hardware mpeg encoding cards. These machines would probably also need at least 2 gigE cards each.

3. A database server running mysql to hold all of the recorded program meta data.

4. A storage system capable of storing 30,000 movies/tv shows/mp3's. This solution should be robust enough to support having multiple streams being written (since you've got those 3 mythbackend boxes constantly writing) plus having any number of reads as any number of Myth Front ends read data from the array. So, this would either be some sorta direct connect SAN or some type of NAS toaster with a shit loads of disk on lots of spindles.

5. A couple good gigE switches/router to connect all of this too. You would probably want to look at switches that are capable of trunking and creating VLANS.

6. WAP equipment. I'd go for something that had some really good management tools that'll allow you todo bandwidth throttling, usage monitoring/logging, traffic shaping, etc.

7. A good omnidirectional wireless Antenna so that everybody can connect.

8. An ISP that's
a) going to be cool with what your doing (such as speakeasy)
b) can provide the bandwidth necessary so that a whole street worth of people can surf the Internet while also chatting on the phone.

Now, there's also some other considerations.
Because of the cost of the equipment, Electricity and bandwidth bills, your going to have to charge for this.

So, unless your going to try to get NPO status, your going to have to get a business license and start keeping track of what you take in for profits so you can pay the tax man. Not to mention that the cost of this equipment means that you'll probably need to take out some loans for the initial acquisitions, so you'd have to figure out your THAC0 so that can hit zero to at least break even. Also, you'll need some infrastructure so that you can keep track of who's paid you and how much and who hasn't paid you, etc.

Beyond all that, we haven't even gotten into the aspects of providing tech support for all the clueless users who'll call up at 3am when they can't make a phone call and the problem isn't at your end, it's at the ISP's

Now, you've got 10 people with these Starnix thin clients in they're house hooked up to their TV's. Who's going to do the initial configuration of these things? I doubt they come pre-configured with the mythfrontend (though it would be nice), so you'll probably need to configure these things to all the settings for your myth back end.

Also, since your now their ISP, you can expect (since they're paying you for network access) that they'll be calling you whenever their completely unpatched, spyware addled Windows ME box shits all over itself... Not to mention that they'll be calling you whenever they want to put another piece of wireless equipment in their house, which means you'll have to start page listing all the gear you know works with your setup...

With all that said, this solution would work, it's just going to require a bit more work then Mr. Cringely makes it sound...

Observations (5, Interesting)

tyrani (166937) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404740)

1)
This Andrew guy is obviously an UberGeek. Congratulations on achiving such notariety.

2)
This system is absolutly amazing. It is an interesting test of the application of exising technology. He didn't create anything new, he just used what was already avaliable.

3)
Everything seems perfectly legal, but some big companies are loosing money on the setup. Will Andrew's work lead to harsher laws in Canada? Once this type of setup is common place, I think that the non-communist values that some law making Canadians have may be overpowered.

4)
Another great article Cringely!

Re:Observations (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405344)

I don't think anyone's losing money on this setup. His suppliers charge him what they agreed to; he seems to be doing fine; his competitors probably don't notice someone this size (or differentiate themselves on service).

Once this type of setup is commonplace, I bet he'll be pretty rich, pretty tired of it, and ready to do something else. He sells out to some big company that sees that he's been making money with the system. Before long, the situation is that big companies provide your communications wirelessly from equipment in space rented from neighborhood homeowners. Then the cycle repeats. The big companies don't really have to worry about competition from individuals, because the individuals don't have the attention span to compete over the time scales that matter, and will eventually become the next wave of services the big company offers.

Re:Observations (2, Insightful)

lousyd (459028) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406449)

but some big companies are loosing money on the setup

Yeah, well, they're also getting free market R&D. This guy forges new territory and accepts all the risks inherent in doing that. Once he establishes what works and what doesn't, an intelligent risk-minimizing company can come in and buy him out or hire him as a consultant.

"disintermediation" my butt (3, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404746)

Remember how in the go-go Internet days of three to four years ago, we used to talk about "disintermediation?" That was using technology to remove middle men from transactions. Well, what Andrew Greig is doing is dis-intermediating both the telephone and TV cable companies. And he'd like to dis-intermediate the Internet Service Providers, too.

Wrong: Andrew Greig isn't "disintermediating" anybody, he's "alter-mediating", meaning in plain english that he's cutting the grass under some other middlemen's feet and setting himself up as the sole replacement middleman for all the people he serves. Likewise, if he wanted to get rid of the internet providers, he's go into the business himself.

His business is that of a concentrator of services, no more no less. Cheaper, more friendly perhaps, but nothing so glamorous as what Cringely portrays him to be. If he's clever and maintains his services, he should make money out of it too.

Re:"disintermediation" my butt (2)

The_Hun (693418) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404877)

Cheaper, more friendly perhaps, but nothing so glamorous as what Cringely portrays him to be.
A cheap and friendly provider is quite glamorous in itself.

Anyone have any power? (1)

tyrani (166937) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404840)

I think that this Starnix company is in a prime spot to be bought out. I could see the features that they are working on being a powerfull addition to products from big companies such as Sony, Dell, even the evil Microsoft XP media edition.

One problem with this (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404850)

At least as far as the neighbors are concerned. If this guy moves, or gets hit by a bus or his house burns down, there goes their TVs, phones and internet.

Sure, bad things can happen to my cable company, but I'll still have my phone service. Someone blows up the phone company, I still can watch TV.

Something about eggs and baskets...

Re:One problem with this (1)

kkovach (267551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405027)

These are some interesting thoughts I had not considered. Somebody mod this up some.

- Kevin

Re:One problem with this (1)

kkovach (267551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405214)

I will say though, that this still seems worth the risk of having somebody move a way. It would not deter me from buying in.

- Kevin

Re:One problem with this (1)

jackjumper (307961) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405049)

Only until they reup with their original providers.

Re:One problem with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10408463)

When was the last time you had to signup with a new telephone company because your neighbor moved?

And when I went to the library to get a library card, they wanted a bill with my name and address on it to prove I lived in the area. "Uh, I get all my services from Joe, he's my nextdoor neighbor. Can Joe come and vouch for me?"

Hey, I'm not saying this isn't great guns and all, just that there are some problems that need to be worked out.

Re:One problem with this (0, Offtopic)

d_jedi (773213) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405315)

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:One problem with this (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405697)

If this guy moves, or gets hit by a bus or his house burns down, there goes their TVs, phones and internet.

If he moves, he should give enough notice to let people get their phone reconnected. And there's always mobile phones if you want to call if something happens until you get your phone service back.

Re:One problem with this (1)

TheAwfulTruth (325623) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406121)

He should?

Maybe, or maybe not. He could just get tired one day of all the "leechers" and turn it off.

The point is, you are not dealing with a service company where you are generally protected by laws, where they HAVE to inform you before shutting off your service. OR where you can be reasonably assured that interruptions in service will be taken care of ASAP. This is just like some guy, you know? Who the hell knows what he will or won't do?

Horray for "free" but I'd much rather pay for something that was a known quantity than be at the mercy of some guy down the street.

Re:One problem with this (2, Insightful)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406002)

Sure, bad things can happen to my cable company, but I'll still have my phone service. Someone blows up the phone company, I still can watch TV.

On the other hand, some people are now abandoning their landline telephones entirely in favour of VOIP, and they're getting their cable television, internet access, and phone service through the same single pipe.

In this case, if something goes wrong with their service, I expect that they'll probably get a faster response from Andrew (who lives upstairs) than they would from their local cable company (who will be glad to send out a technician to diagnose your problem sometime between the hours of one and six pm, Monday to Friday, at least two business days from now, as long as you stayed on hold for forty-five minutes to make the request...).

If the guy moves, they just sign up for cable, phone, and internet from the other local providers. Andrew just provides a bit of competition in the local market. If Andrew's place burns down--well, I can suck it up. He just lost his house, but I'm going whine because I can't watch Survivor: Toledo? I'll just get together with Andrew and buy him a pint at the local pub--he'll need it.

Re:One problem with this (1)

JohnnyCannuk (19863) | more than 9 years ago | (#10407117)

So make it a cooperative with a 'backup' or parallel fail-over service running in Joe's basment\attic\garage over on the next block, so you have redundancy.

Now imagine this over-lapping throughout your subdivision or neighbourhood. Kind of a new take on the idea of the mesh netowrk, no?

I personally think its brilliant. Decentralized, self-healing network of services....

He did something stupid (0)

rikkards (98006) | more than 9 years ago | (#10404892)

If I pulled something like hook a piece of hardware from work to an external network (or vice-versa). I would be turfed. What is with these places that allow it?
We have a strict "no external hardware" policy on the network and we are not allowed to connect to other networks with our hardware. Seems like common sense yet this is not the first time I have heard of this happening.

Re:He did something stupid (2, Insightful)

Zeriel (670422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405495)

WEll, you see, some of us work for companies that are "enlightened" and actually have competent IT staff that don't simply blanket-ban everything that might ever be a possible problem.

I know it's hard to imagine, stuck in drone-land, but there exist good places to work, with sane policies. They only look lax or non-sensical because you're used to working with idiots.

Re:He did something stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405520)

Actually if you read carefully his home is an extension of the company network. also its a thin client.

Re:He did something stupid (3, Insightful)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405664)

Most likely, the powers-that-be at his company (of which he probably is one) have the intellectual wherewithal to realize that the more responsibility you give to your employees, the more likely the employees are to reward you in terms of productivity and creativity. Putting up a bunch of "don't do this" roadblocks just stifles motivation.

At our company probably 1/3 of the staff take their laptops between home and work (and business travel) all the time. I VPN into our system from home on a regular basis, which effectively exposes both work and home to each other. We have only had one bad episode in the last couple of years, which occurred when the MSBlaster worm got in through an infected laptop and nailed everyone that wasn't running Windoze Update. Educating the staff about spyware removal, antivirus software, and making sure everyone keeps their OS up to date, is actually a lot easier and more productive than just saying "not allowed".

Re:He did something stupid (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405729)

My parents just told me when I got a virus (not from me, they use Outlook) "I dunno what to do, just fix it yourself". And I learnt from that.

Of course, if you want to get work done, cutting off tech support may not be a good thing.

I love how "neato"... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404935)

... in the Open Source community means 'here is how a business profits off the backs of others.'

This wont work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10404994)

Just because this guy can hook himself and a few of his geeky neighbours up on this system, there is no way this going to be able to grow.

Look at the cable company for example. The monthly fee you pay covers not the content, but the whole infrastructure. What is this guy going to do when something as simple as an access point stops working. Who is going to be able to physically go replace it. We pay the cable company because they have the resources ready to fix all these types of problems. The same is true for the phone company. How pleased with this "service" would you be when you run into an emergency and the phone isnt working. Mabye people should think of the markup on cable and telephone as an insurance cost.

Re:This wont work (1)

VE3ECM (818278) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406485)

What is this guy going to do when something as simple as an access point stops working. Who is going to be able to physically go replace it[?]

Uhhh... I'd say that he'll drive to one of the literally hundreds of PC stores that dot the Toronto landscape, buy a new AP, drive home, climb the ladder into his attic and replace said AP... and that's if he doesn't keep a cold spare in the house for just an eventuality.

I'd say that his response time would own the local phone/cable companies... (and I know, I used to live in Toronto)

Too bad CRINGLEY IS A JACKASS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405158)

how much is he paying you guys to paste his bullshit?

Minor Issue (4, Informative)

Mortanius (225192) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405281)

No one can watch every episode of the original Star Trek series in the order in which they were broadcast in one weekend, it's a temporal impossibility. Even if you say each episode was only 40 minutes long, 80 episodes @ 40 minutes each is 3,200 minutes, compared to 2,880 minutes in two days. (Although I'll shoot myself in the foot and say that if you consider the weekend to start at 5pm on Friday, that adds another 420 minutes, giving you time enough to watch all the episodes with 100 minutes for bathroom breaks and such. But still. :-P)

Also, anyone else notice that IE has trouble selecting text on that page? It always selects, for me, everything from the top of the page down to where the cursor is. Annoying. (And yes, Firefox does just fine. Unfortunately I have to use IE at work.)

Re:Minor Issue (1)

mib711 (785099) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405604)

there's also some time to be gained by skipping intros and outros. that would free roughly 2 minutes/episode, giving you additional 80*2 = 160 minutes for trips to the fridge as for the IE-thing you mentioned: poor you for being stuck withit! :-)

Re:Minor Issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405841)

Two words: multiple televisions. Every real star trek geek watches two episodes at once.

Re:Minor Issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405926)

You can watch a show at +20% playback speed if the audio is compensated for the pitch change. One of my JVC VCR does that. It is quite watchable.

Shortest. Submission. Ever. (4, Funny)

mapmaker (140036) | more than 9 years ago | (#10405543)

That's got to be the shortest, least informative article summary I've ever seen on Slashdot.

Which means posters have no choice but to actually RTFA before they can comment. Well done! :)

Personal servers the next step? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405581)

From the original story:
"...Open Source software is leading to digital devices being used in large volumes in ways their designers never envisioned. This takes control of the network out of the hands of the providers and into the hands of the users."
I believe, the next step is to free the users from providers whom store their personal data and even serve their e-mail and that's already happening. With products like The Net-Box [axentra.com] it is now possible to have your own email,file,calendar,bookmark server in your own home without worrying about free-service policies changing that will restrict the way you access your own data.As a matter of fact Axentra [axentra.com] the creator of the Net-Box is in Canada and uses Open Source [axentra.com] as well!

mod 3own (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10405897)

AAproximately 90% to make sure the do and doing what website. Mr. de our cause. Gay lizard - In other track of where Mire of decay, to avoid so as to When I stood for

Cringely once again has another column... (1)

Jason Hildebrand (103827) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406003)

Was this ever in doubt?

zaurus 6000 distro... (1)

WestieDog (592175) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406372)

he runs a Linux thin client on a Sharp Zaurus SL-6000 Linux PDA. Sitting in its cradle on Andrew's desk at home, the Zaurus (running a special copy of Debian Linux, NOT as shipped by Sharp) I want to know how to get my hands on that distro!

Re:zaurus 6000 distro... (1)

NoWhere Man (68627) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406597)

He probably compiled it himself based on the setup he did.

Re:zaurus 6000 distro... (1)

velkro (11) | more than 9 years ago | (#10407725)

Probably Debian Familiar based - see handhelds.org I think, or look for the OpenEmbedded/OpenZaurus distro.

Re:zaurus 6000 distro... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10409137)

Um http://pocketworkstation.org/
and/or http://people.debian.org/~mdz/zaurus/

Other ways to "get in on it" (1)

Tejin (818001) | more than 9 years ago | (#10406855)

My family was actually thinking about building some windmills to supply at least part of our own power, this should decrease or eliminate our power bill, if we could get a good enough system, we could let a neighbour or two use it (neighbours who are close friends of course)

To all the naysayers... (4, Interesting)

Claw919 (604849) | more than 9 years ago | (#10407033)

Man, lots of people who think this won't work... 1) System stability. He's probably got APs (and you-name it) on standby. Nobody (let alone a high quality geek of this calibre!) ever designs a network without minimal failovers at least. Hell - he's probably doing some AP meshing or something. 2) Cash is king. Want failover 911 service in case your neighbour's house gets hit by a meteor? Okay... keep your basic phone service. You're still way under what you were paying for phone + cable. (Oh, by the way - in Canada (Ontario at least), any company who wants to resell phone services CAN - they wholesale it out from Bell Canada. What's to stop him from doing that?) 3) Yes, you can definitely store hundreds and hundreds of 30 minute shows on hard disk. He'll be using TV-quality, not the super-extreme-videophile quality that people mindlessly use for their old Tick reruns (yes, I like Tick). Ease up on the "big corporations will never allow this", by the way. To be so defeatist is to withdraw any claim to the title of "Geek" - and, as such, you should not be reading Slashdot.

Cannot believe he uses open source (4, Funny)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 9 years ago | (#10407439)

Hasn't he read any of the independent studies? Surely he must realize that the TCO would be 60% less if he used MS Windows, not to mention the vastly improved security that would give him.

Still Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10407593)

The fact that his PDA is doing work of so many things is a good start. I wouldn't mind have one thing to worry about instead of 6 and also paying six bills

Neighbourhood-net howto (2, Interesting)

daybyter (684997) | more than 9 years ago | (#10408360)

Is there any kind of neighbourhood-net howto? I'm trying to create a very, very basic WIFI service for my neighbourhood and already learned, that you lose a lot of time searching for the right hard- and software. What APs to use? How to configure my linux router? And much more details. Would be great to have a forum, where admins of such networks could discuss all those issues.
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