Quick Way to Make Web-Television Suck Less (ethernet via powerline)

I never really bought in to the concept that audio or electronic signals could travel via powerlines. But when Jim Louderback (former computer nerd publisher and fellow online-video enthusiast) told me about these little dlink powerline guys at a bar in San Fran, I grabbed his laptop and purchased them via Amazon immediately. Come to think of it, I think I was still logged into his Amazon.

Surprisingly, they made it possible for me to watch television via that other doo-diggy that streams YouTube and Hulu to my HDTV through the convenience of a light keyboard and mouse… neither of which gets hot in my lap. That’s what sucks about laptop video from a couch or bed.

Years ago I marveled that new houses were being wired with Ethernet, and with wireless modems becoming so fast and cheap, I’ve often chuckled at that waste of money. In hindsight, it was brilliant (ask Dave). The best damned wired modem can’t touch a wired signal for uploading and streaming video. Trust me: I have 5 modems. I don’t learn easily.

I don’t know how these dlink things compare to a direct ethernet connection, but the latter was not a very practical option for me. My Verizon Fios Fart modem brings my signal upstairs, and I’d have to rerun a bunch of ethernet wires back to the basement and up walls… in the case of my main television, there’s not enough crawl space to even accomplish this. Post college I had speakers in every room of the house (including bathroom), but I’ve lost my passion for cable splicing.

So these puppies are $100, plug and work, and do the trick. One small step for ethernet speed, one giant leap for web-television conversion.

P.S. The ethernet-to-TV solutions I’ve seen to date are a friggin’ joke. Glad to have a direct ethernet input, but the interfaces are absolutely retarded. Even TiVo blows for watching streaming media (just to search out a YouTube video is like using a 56K modem to watch a 700K picture). Then again maybe I need to get my TiVo hard wired like this. But the AppleTV is doing fine without a direct connection. Wuz up?

You’re a Digital Native, But Are You Acting Like One?

You’re probably a digital native if you read this. Tim Street interviewed Revision3’s Brad Murphy, who leads business development/sales. He uses the term “digital native” to refer to the audience his shows reach. Street includes a video of the interview (for those who prefer the hipper form of video to the timeless form of written expression).

Digital natives, writes Street, are “people who don’t watch regular television, are looking for content on-demand – whether it’s text based content, video content or communicating through social media to find that content. It’s an audience that hyper-connected.”

Indeed I’m among the folks who almost entirely switched their television diet for online material, although over the past year I’ve returned to TV for some of my favorite comedy and dramas: “Modern Family” (a must-watch, and as wonderfully written and acted as “The Office”), Lost, Fringe, V, that blackout show, and a few others.

For those of us digital natives who also dabble in time-shifted television (AppleTV, Verizon On-Demand, Roku, Netflix), there’s also another alternative I’m surprised isn’t catching on. Why aren’t we all using an old PC with HDMI (digital) connection to our television sets? Until we start seeing some formalized solution to leverage that ethernet plug in the back of the giant monitors we call “HD television sets,” I’d think that would be a natural solution, and one we natives would demand!

Why DON’T people use an old PC and a wireless keyboard so they can roam the web without the Mac-like “walled garden” approach? Two theories:

  1. I asked Revision3’s Jim Louderback about that on Tuesday, and he believes it’s because the solution Roku and other players offer is more user friendly, even if somewhat controlled. I suppose that explains the conspicuous lack of a $200 device that allows free browser-led experience right from the television set with the convenience of a keyboard instead of a remote.
  2. Another techno-nerd friend explains that the cost of making a machine (fast processor, web connectivity, HDMI connection and wireless keyboard) would be somewhat higher than the market would bear for such a device… and maybe there’s not the pent up demand for such a “lean forward” WHILE “leaning back” tool.

In the mean time, we digital natives do want to consume our “new establishment” (new studio, shorter format webisodes) in the higher quality and convenience of a giant television set. So once again, for the 3rd year in a row, I’ll predict a solution arriving this fall. It might be via a device (a modernized AppleTV or iPad-initiated device, a Roku/TiVo thing, or a television or Blueray DVD player that plays nicely with web content). Otherwise we hardcore natives will have to keep furnishing our own, to give us the full access that our devices limit.

Common, people. What if I want to check YouTube without the limits these devices impose? And Hulu won’t soon be kind to newer solutions (just look at what they did to Boxee). So do we wait until the large media and electronic manufacturers figure it out, or just build our own?