September 30, 2005
20 Years in 860 characters

In about a month is my 20th high school reunion. Narbonne High 1985, Go Gauchos!

Hard to wrap my head around that.

Part of the reunion is writing a short bio of what you have been doing since high school. You are only given 860 character for your bio.

Here's what I wrote:

I studied Electrical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York for my Bachelor's degree. After college I took a job with National TeleConsultants, designing TV facilities in 1989.

In May 1994, Michele Keller and I were married. After the wedding we moved to San Francisco. Fellow Narbonne Alumni Kirill Sheynkman was one of my groomsmen.

I joined Sony and built TV facilities for them overseas. In Singapore, I met some Disney people and ended up taking a job with them in 1995.

We moved back to LA and had our first daughter Zoe in January of '96. Our second daughter, Mira, was born in July of '98.

At work, I manage TV & IT technology for Disney Channels and other Disney TV networks globally.

Currently we live in South Pasadena where in my spare time I referee soccer games, play video games, and lose at poker.

It's not easy to sum up 20 years in 147 words.

Posted by michael at 11:51 AM | Comments (4)
September 22, 2005

In my work email inbox there are 479 messages, with 41 of them unread. Would it really be so bad if I deleted them all and started fresh?

Posted by michael at 10:27 AM | Comments (8)
September 20, 2005
Things I am tired of hearing about

Dear Internet,

Please give the following topics a break for a while. I am sick of them.

1) IPods - No more articles about hacking them, listening to them, new models, or sales figures.

2) WiMAX - No more WiMAX testing stories, WiMAX product launches, WiBRO linkage, or business models based on WiMAX.

3) Conspiracy theories - They are good for fictional novels, but in real life no one is smart enough to pull them off.

4) Lastly, please make Ed Adkins and Tom Green kiss and make up. I'll buy the beers. I'll even buy pitchers at Hooters to get them to stop.

Posted by michael at 07:45 AM | Comments (4)
September 18, 2005
In the fast lane

Since August when the Hybrids in the Carpool Lane rules went into effect, People have been asking if I gotten my stickers yet.

Well, I slapped them on the Prius last Friday and blissfully cruised in the Carpool Lane all the way home down the 134. It was a great feeling to bypass all that traffic and get home 15 minutes sooner. Driving in the fast lane makes all the difference on my Burbank <-> South Pasadena commute.

I had read that people had complained about the size and shape of the stickers, so I was anxious to see what the big deal was when I got my stickers.

I have to agree, it's not the prettiest sticker, but it's not so bad.

As for the overall size, the people complaining are full of crap. Take a look.

If you have trouble seeing the sticker ('cause it's so small), it's behind the rear tire.

People will whine about just about anything these days.

Posted by michael at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)
September 17, 2005

I recently read an article about MPEG-2 in the New York TImes (should not need registration). I sent the author, David Pogue, a note trying to help explain things. He seemd to appreciate it, so I thought I would share it with you all.

Mr. Pogue,

I read your article on MPEG-2 and can empathize with your travails. I
am a professional television engineer and have been dealing with video
format issues for quite a while.

MPEG-2 is not a format that will be gaining in the marketplace, it is on
the decline. MPEG-2 is one of the older video formats in use today. It
was developed in the mid-1990s as a revolutionary new way to digitize
video. The idea was that you could roughly predict the next frame of
video in a sequence. If you could get the sender and the receiver to
predict the same next frame, you have the sender send to the receiver
only the ACTUAL CHANGE from the prediction. This would save a lot of
bandwidth. There had been a older version called MPEG 1, but it didn't
work so well at the high bitrates that broadcasters use.

The concept worked, the broadcasters said hooray, and began implementing
MPEG 2 systems in professional broadcast, transmission systems like
DirecTV, and DVDs. There were limitations to the format, but since it
was only intended for well-financed professionals to use, no one worried.

The main drawback was all this prediction stuff. It's fine for playing
back video at normal speed, but it gets quite mind-bending to think
about playing it in reverse or editing it. Trust me in saying it is a
Hard Thing To Do.

To solve this editing problem, an alternate method (sometimes called
DCT) for encoding was used. The method used did not use prediction,
thereby solving some of the problems. It did create new ones though.
To get the same image quality you needed a higher bandwidth. It's all
about the tradeoffs.

To compare, a DVD uses MPEG-2 at 4-6 Mb/s and a MiniDV player uses a
form of DCT at 25 Mb/s.

(By the way, DCT stands for Discrete Cosine Transform with means little
to anyone without an engineering or math degree. It's pretty much like
a JPEG image with the lower the resolution, the blockier the picture.)

Then the dot-boom happened with the desire for video over the internet
started driving money into the problem. Lots of money. This money
poured into next-generation forms of encoding and you get the family of
Windows Media, MPEG-4, H.264, etc. All more advanced video encoding
methods that work well as long as you have plenty of processing power to
do the math. Microsoft and Apple are pushing these technologies because
they have the computing power to utilize them and get the benefits of
low bandwidth and high picture quality.

Fast forward to today and you see manufacturers trying get into the home
video market as inexpensively as possible. The MPEG 2 chips are old
(therefore inexpensive) and they utilize less bandwidth than the
comparable DCT type encoding and they don't require computing power
since the encoding/decoding is done on a chip, not in CPU. Put this
together and you have and inexpensive video camera that make
hard-to-edit video.

The trouble with converting MPEG-2 to another format lies in the fact
that MPEG-2 requires a license to legally use the codec. Imagine that
you are a software maker and you want to be able to convert MPEG-2 to
another format as a feature. To do this, you need to pay the MPEG LA
for a license to do this. Usually it's a per copy license and believe
me, that adds up. The license cost is the reason you see MPEG-2 as an
additional costs and often why you need special, separate software to
play DVDs on a computer if the MPEG-2 codec is not included with the
native media player software.

There you go, a long unsolicited reply to your article. I hope it
shines a bit of light on the topic.


Posted by michael at 03:51 PM | Comments (2)
September 16, 2005
High Altitude Gaming

Just an image to show you how incredibly l33t I am.

When I was flying home from IBC, I had a chance to play World of Warcraft at 35,000 feet.

The ping times were between 900ms and 3 seconds, but I was able to move around Ironforge, use the Auction House, and get mail.

Good times.

Posted by michael at 11:13 AM | Comments (6)
September 15, 2005

It is important to stop and smell the roses.
Sometimes, you will find that the rose has no smell.
This does not change the value of stopping,
for it is the stopping which is important, not the smelling.

Posted by michael at 07:51 AM | Comments (3)
September 13, 2005
In the air

I'm at 30,000 feet, typing on my laptop. Thanks to the Connexion service, this Lufthansa flight home has wifi and broadband internet.

Currently I'm talking to by buddy Brian over Google Talk. I'm in the air over Greenland and he's in Santa Barbara, California. The quality is as good as a phone call.

A year or so ago, I was on a flight with Mira, my youngest daughter. She was upset that she couldn't get on the web with the laptop. I tried to explain that when flying there was no internet access. I guess the airlines heard her complaints.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed." - William Gibson quote

Posted by michael at 07:13 AM | Comments (1)
September 10, 2005
Dear Europe

Dear Europe,

I really am an enjoying my time here in Europe. I love Paris and Amsterdam, so much fun to be had.

There are two issues I really need you to focus on:

1) Lack of Air Conditioning - Look, I know it's an old part of the world, but that's no excuse for air conditioning to be missing. Restaurants should be air conditioned, especially Argentine steak houses. Convention centers should be air conditioned to avoid me passing out while doing business. Clubs hosting parties should be air conditioned to avoid people clustering at windows to gasp for cool fresh air. Can you give me an ETA on when I should plan to stop sweating everywhere I go?

2) Robbie Williams - Tonight I endured not one, not two, but THREE karaoke versions of Robbie Williams songs. As one of the three Americans in the room, we were the only ones that not only didn't know the words by heart, didn't even know who this guy was. Evidently he's a big singer from England, but honestly, his music is fairly amatuerish compared to that from other current Brit Bands. Please explain Robbie Williams and why he is beloved...



Posted by michael at 04:30 PM | Comments (7)
September 06, 2005
In Paris

I'm in Paris, France this week for work. We are having an internal conference before a big broadcasting convention in Amsterdam later this week.

Of course, our hosts are showing us a great time with good food and an amazing tour of the Eiffel Tower.

We were lucky enough to get a special tour of the broadcasting facilities on the top of the Eiffel Tower, well above where normal tourists get to travel. I had seen pictures of the Tower before, but not until you actually see it can you realize how immensely huge it is. To consider that it was built well over one hundred years ago, it is really a fantastic engineering work.

I am enjoying Paris quite a bit between meetings. The pastries are great, walking around is fun, and seeing all the famous locations is mind-blowing.

It's the little things that impress me, like the fact that French keyboards have a different layout than US keyboards. The wide assortment of channels on the hotel TV reflects the true broadness of the world from French netwroks to Arabic TV to a network aobut US extreme sports to a German channel with softcore porn ads for phone sex.

Last night, we started dinner around 10 PM and didn't finish well until after 1 AM. The food was tasty, but I'm simply not used to the eating dinner after midnight. If it weren't for the 8AM start the next day, I would have been out for drinks until the wee hours.

Posted by michael at 10:26 PM | Comments (4)
September 02, 2005
Long Friday

I turned on my computer at home this morning to check email. I've been falling behind these days in replies.





The computer won't boot. It was working fine 8 hours ago.

Most likely the hard drive is failing.

It's going to be a long Friday.

Posted by michael at 07:34 AM | Comments (8)